AMAGBAGAN – Anatomy of a Historic Barangay

by Mel V. Jovellanos

Barangay Amagbagan, one of the most developed among the 34 barangays in the Municipality of Pozorrubio, was elevated and simultaneously inaugurated as a barrio of nearby San Jacinto town on March 12, 1834. As a barrio or barangay therefore, it is now 168 years old. But long before it became a barrio, it was a sitio of San Jacinto starting during the late 1700’s. It is safe to conclude that Barangay Amagbagan’s colorful history encompasses more than 200 years antedating independent Pozorrubio by 38 solid years.

The sitio was named after the first great leader among the intrepid Pangasinense settlers who cleared the then thickly-forested area between what are now barangays Talogtog and Amagbagan. From oral traditions, Claris the warrior, was indeed the epitome of a great leader – a man for all time: handsome, tall and heavily built, hard-working, deeply religious and a born leader who led the settlers in driving out the wild inhabitants of the area. The non-Christians were successfully conquered by Claris and his fellow Pangasinenses who all came from the Mother of San Jacinto. Thus the territory, vanquished from the animistic tribesmen of the northern mountains, became known as Claris, in honor of their great leader.

In 1834, by virtue of the approval of the petition of the Gobernadorcillo of San Jacinto, the Spanish Governor-General in Manila, Don Pascual Enrile, approved the elevation of the sitio of Claris into a barrio. The Vicar of San Jacinto, Fray Domingo Naval, presided over the inauguration ceremonies. The barrio’s population at that time was only around 700 people.

In 1839 or five years later, the foundation of a Catholic Chapel in Barrio Claris were laid down. It was finished in 1842. The priests of San Jacinto regularly went to Claris, traversing the ancient dirt road via Lobong and Nantangalan which were also still sitios at that time, to say mass, to visit and encourage the pioneering settlers and to conduct religious instructions. When the petition of Barrio Claris was finally approved by Governor-General Carlos Maria dela Torre y Navarrada to secede from San Jacinto and become an independent town, the Spanish Governor-General reportedly chose the name of the new town, naming it Pozorrubio, in honor of the Governor-General’s hometown in Spain which was also Pozorrubio (in the Spanish province of Cuenca).

The legend whereby two Spaniards discovered a well with reddish drinking water (Pozorrubio or red well) remains to be that – an imaginative legend. Thus the name Claris was obliterated and change into Pozorrubio. In the Pangasinan dialect, the place became known as the place where they replaced, relocated, after physically removing practically everything and bringing them somewhere else.

Ten years after the inauguration of the new town, it was abandoned in favor of a new site was not prone to flooding, farther to the north, in a barangay called Cablong. But while the new town of Pozorrubio expanded, evolving eventually into a 34-barangay municipality, the former site, the barrio of Claris, became known as Amagbagan. From a population of 700 when it was elevated it into a barrio in 1834, the population has since then increased to 2,450 people with 358 households.

The total land area is 548 hectares of which 422 are classified as agricultural land. It has three sitios: Capaoay, Papallasen and Liktub. It has more than one-thousand registered voters as of the last election in May 2001.

Amagbagan is a Pangasinan word meaning, “a place where something was demolished and transferred to another place”. At the same time it also connotes in a somewhat unsavory way, something discarded, abandoned or replaced. And this has led to the big question of whether the name of present-day Amagbagan will reclaim her name of Claris. From a tentative survey we conducted, it seems like many people, especially the learned and those who are history-conscious want to rename their barangay back to Claris. The name Claris, they claim needs to be immoralized. Amagbagan does not sound nice. According to them it sounds and smells like amag, a micro-organism that spoils food. Clarisan also sounds more acceptable. In other words, aside from its historical value, Claris sounds more romantic challenging and there is more hope and sincerity in the way the name penetrates to the senses.

According to Municipal Councilor Lito Estaris, a three-terner Konsehal, who is a proponent of their “Back to Claris Movement, “its about time to rename the barangay, specially now that it has become one of the most outstanding barangays not only in the Municipality of Pozorrubio but in the whole region as well”. There was a time when it ranked as the first runner-up among the outstanding barangays in Pozorrubio and one of the best in the entire province of Pangasinan.

Sometime back incumbent Barangay Captain, Captain Celso A. Salinas, was adjudged as one of the Most Outstanding Barangay Captains in the 5th District of Pangasinan. During the early years of Claris as a barrio and as a town, the hardworking farmers planted so much rice they were able to supply the neighboring towns with the staple crop. Many times however, there were more harvests than harvesters because of the scarcity of people. But the agricultural tradition has continued to his day. Barangay Amagbagan has placed a lot of emphasis to the development of agriculture. Until today Amagbagan supplies surplus rice to other barangays and municipalities in the province.

Agrarian Reform and other agricultural programs of the government have been successfully implemented in Brgy. Amagbagan. It is also well-known as an Agrarian Reform Community (ARC). As an ARC, millions of pesos have been poured into the barangay through the DAR and the Department of Agriculture. The Amagbagan Multi-Purpose Cooperative, Inc. Is also playing a big role by giving out crop, protection loans.

One reason why Amagbagan continues to have bumper crops is because the irrigation system is one of the best in the province. The DAR and the DA in cooperation with JICA, the Sangguniang Bayan and the Office of the Mayor have flooded the barangay with agricultural projects the latest of which is the multi-million peso rehabilitation and completion of the barangay’s communal irrigation system. It is now being rushed for completion on time for another bumper crop.

The two-story Barangay hall is most impressive and is certainly one of the biggest in the province. Worth noting is the bayanihan spirit or tagnawa which is practiced by volunteer workers during the construction of barangay projects.

The Barangay Council is preparing a marker which will be placed on the exact spot where the first Catholic Chapel was constructed in the Barrio of Claris. It was reported bricks remnants of the 171-year old chapel can still be found in that historical spot.

What makes Barangay Amagbagan click? The industrious, education-conscious and sociable people of Amagbagan make this barangay one of the most successful among the 34 barangays of Pozorrubio. They have produced successful men and women representing practically all professions. In the field of nursing alone they have produced lots of them but lack of space necessitates mentioning just or few of them: Oscar Estaris, Amanda Itliong, Ramon I. Engenco, Germelyn Aldana Paule, Jenny Aldana, Jose Salinas, Bong Venezuela, Jonathan Domingo, Ruth Muena and Medarlo Estaris Tugade who is with the United States Air Force. The engineers are; Avelino Bernardo and Romeo Muena, both Civil Engineers; Mario Muena, M.E. and Manuel Itliong, Carlos Songcuan, Jimmy Muena, Jessie Caoili and Aquilino de Vera – all of them, electrical engineers. The latter used to be president of the Philippine Association of Electrical Engineers (PAMEE). They also have Medical Doctors (Bernardo Vega, Pauline Itliong and Catalino Salcedo, Jr.); lawyers: (Venancio Calpotura, Bert Vega and Emerito I. Engenco); midwives: Josie Venezuela, Eufemia Vega Estaris, Teresita T. Lagasca and Ruby Claveria. Some of their Business Administration and CPA’s: Hector Santos, Lorna Bautista, Gerardo Engenco and Mardonio Bernardo (Equitable PCI Bank Branch Manager). Captain Santiago I. Engenco belongs to PMA Class ’90 while 2nd Lieut. Teodoro Vega, Jr. belongs to PMA Batch ‘ 92. Navy Commodore Nicasio Blancas and navy Captain Arturo Blacas are both from this barangay. Melecio C. Itliong used to be the Assistant Treasurer of the Municipality of Pozorrubio. His son, Jose S. Itliong became a Municipal Treasurer of several Pangasinan towns. A younger sister, Trinidad, holder of a Master’s Degree in Education, became an elementary school Principal II. Brgy. Amagbagan has her share of men who shed their blood in the battlefields of Bataan.
At least a half dozen of them participated much earlier (1899) in the delaying tactics carried by Revolutionarios who fought the advancing Americans bent in capturing General Emilio Aguinaldo in the evening of November 14, 1899. General Aguinaldo spent that night in Pozorrubio while fierce fighting broke out all the way from San Jacinto down to Nantangalan, Dilan, Malasin, Amagbagan and Talogtog. But this is another story.

Worth mentioning also were the former Tenientes del Barrio, Cabezas del Barangay and other Capitanes who helped lead Amagbagan to its present greatness: Clemente Songcuan, Domingo “Principe” Bautista, Gaspar Songcuan (who reportedly lived to a ripe old age of 120 years) who was an original “anakbanua” of Pangasinan; Juan and Simeon Calpotura, Ricardo Bambilla, Isidro Estaris, Venancio Datario, Isabelo Alvendia (he also became a Municipal Councilor); Martin Asuncion, Juan Salinas, Bernardo Estaris, (he was elected ABC President for many years), Valeriano Datario and Celso Salinas.

What, indeed, makes Barangay Amagbagan click? It is the people, the rank and file, the masa. But a lot of credit goes to the barangay officials led by Captain Celso A. Salinas, who believe it or not, could have been a male nurse but instead of an RN, he got an MD (marriage degree). He finished his 3rd year college in the school of Nursing of the University of Baguio. But the nursing profession’s loss is Barangay Amagbagan’s gain because undoubtedly the Barangay is being led by a very qualified, cooperative and dedicated Capitan. Forty-seven year old Celso is fortunate to be fully supported by a distinguished Barangay Council composed of: Juan Calpotura, Juanito Madres, Teofilo Reyes, Baltazar Estaris, Rogelio Bernardo, Antonio Tacbas and Arturo Lopez. Jonathan Domingo is the SK Chairman while Montano Tapo is the Barangay Treasurer. Daisy Barrozo is the new Barangay Secretary.

In April 1958 the AMATALO Elementary School was established at the boundary between Amagbagan and Talogtog. The top-quality concrete highway that traverses Amagbagan brings commuters to Dagupan and to the other towns in Central and Western Pangasinan and to the Ilocos regions and Baguio City. Four Amagbagan-based passenger jeepneys brings passengers to Dagupan City and back while more than twenty tricycles ply the Amagbagan-poblacion route. Religion gives the people spiritual food. A modest Roman Catholic chapel has been built but the barangay so far has produced only one priest, Father Antonio Estaris Reyes, Jr.

Telefax, telephone lines, television, VCDs and VTRs, videokes, videocams, aircon and refrigerators have invaded the homes of Amagbaganians. Hundreds of them have come and gone to overseas jobs as contract workers, domestic helpers, as engineers, nurses, accountants, teachers. Many of them have also gone abroad as immigrants to Canada, USA and Europe. Their dollar remittances help us going. They are contributing a lot to propel the economy of the country.

This then is Barangay Amagbagan. It is barangays like this, one among the province of Pangasinan’s 1,333 and one among the more than 42,000 across the country, that makes the contaminating sincerity, coupled with civic pride and their unshakable spiritual strength, they will continue to march alongside with the rest of the Philippines, facing the third millennium with new-found confidence and courage.

Onward then, Barangay Amagbagan. Lead the way as you have done during the past 167 years. Mabuhay!

Mel V. Jovellanos


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